From Struggle to Success: The Transformative Effects of School Tutoring

Over two million school tutoring sessions have started through the National Tutoring Programme (NTP). Tutoring is used by schools to aid pupils in their academic recovery from disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The Department for Education (DfE) recently commissioned an independent Ofsted review to identify how well tutoring is supplementing classroom practice and helping pupils catch up in their learning.  This independent review of tutoring took place over two years, from September 2021. Phase 1 findings covered 63 school visits, and revealed that school leaders, staff, and pupils were positive about tutoring. Ofsted’s latest review follows visits in 2022/23.  Phase 2 findings are positive.

This recent report highlights that the positive effects of tutoring extend beyond catching up on learning and pupils’ attainment. Staff report improvements in pupils’ confidence and resilience.


About the National Tutoring Programme (NTP)

The NTP, set up to help with post-lockdown challenges, is now in its third year.  NTP funding remains invaluable for mainstream schools in England. Fleet Education Services is an approved provider; schools can only work with approved Tuition Partners who have passed stringent assessments.


Getting started with tutoring

The first step to implementing a tutoring scheme is understanding the areas needing attention. Consider:

  • which pupils need extra support
  • what they need support with
  • which subjects are pupils struggling with

Who benefits from tutoring?

Schools decide which pupils would benefit the most from NTP funding based on their needs and circumstances. Schools with a higher proportion of disadvantaged pupils receive funding allocations.  The funding can be used for individual or small-group tuition. It may include pupils who

  • are in danger of exclusion
  • are struggling to attend school due to social, emotional, and mental health (SEMH) needs
  • are falling behind
  • aren’t meeting age-related expectations
  • need exam support

For all pupils, tutoring provides a safe, judgement-free environment away from their peers to ask questions and make mistakes. For neurodiverse pupils(both diagnosed and undiagnosed), tutoring helps, as many learners need someone to see their specific issues and know how to respond to them.  Pupils with common SEN problems such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dyslexia in mainstream schools can get left behind in the classroom. With support and extra tuition, they can thrive at school. Tutoring can also help pupils with anxiety or low self-esteem. 

Key findings from the review indicate when tutoring is the most effective:


Tutoring should align with the school curriculum

The DfE commissioned Ofsted to review the quality of tuition in schools. It looked at how well tutoring has integrated into curriculum planning and delivery. In phase 1, tutoring was effective when it was well-planned and aligned with the school curriculum. This continued to be the case in phase 2. Schools with strong tutoring provisions ensured that tutoring was linked to the school’s curriculum and that they used tutoring to build on the pupil’s prior knowledge. In the report, tutors reported that they had seen pupils progress through the curriculum to the point where tutoring was no longer required.

Tutors use the same national curriculum, but they engage with children in small groups, from one-to-one learning to groups of about six learners. This gives them more time and flexibility to give personalised support to each pupil. They are better able to adapt to a learning style that works for their small group or individuals.

Our educators at Fleet Education Services know the curriculums for each key stage and are familiar with all major exam boards.


Tutoring is most effective when embedded in the school day

Schools that were successful at providing tutoring had embedded it in their structures and day-to-day processes. This was more common in primary schools. When schools did not have a clear approach to embedding tutoring, the tutoring provision was weaker. This was because there was no clear understanding and strategy of the aims of tutoring throughout the school.

When leaders were clear about their school’s tutoring strategy, this was likely to filter through staff and become embedded into everyday school processes. In schools with good tutoring provisions, tutoring and classroom lessons were linked in curriculum and pedagogy. For example, when tutors found pedagogical strategies that worked, they explained these to the pupil’s class teachers so that they could continue to use them to help the pupil.

Our experienced educators at Fleet report that engagement is higher during school hours when pupils are less tired and less prone to distraction.  


Small-group tutoring works best

The report revealed that larger group sizes were less focused and less likely to succeed in tutoring. Inspectors found that the content rarely focused on misconceptions or specific knowledge that learners needed to progress. It tended to cover generic content not aligned with the schools’ curriculum.

Research shows that smaller group sizes are the most effective when targeting pupils’ individual needs. Findings by The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) state that small-group tuition is most effective when it targets pupils’ specific needs. Our educators at Fleet also report that small-group tuition is most effective when held with six pupils or less.

According to The EEF, small group tuition has an average impact of four months of extra progress over a year.

As an approved NTP Tuition Partner, our Fleet educators are fully qualified to provide one-to-one or small-group tuition. Moreover, diagnostic assessment can assess the best way to target support for each pupil. Fleet educators will tailor the tuition according to pupil numbers. They use different teaching strategies to ensure maximum participation.


The power of in-person tutoring

Pupil engagement in tuition tended to be better in person. Some schools and tuition partners recognised this. This was particularly the case for primary schools. Primary school pupils are more likely to struggle to stay engaged in online tutoring.

The findings also showed that communication between teachers and external tutors was better when tutoring was in person.

Our educators report that in-person tuition promotes greater engagement in learning than online tuition. Fleet can offer both delivery methods, but we recommend in-person tuition first.


Feedback and communication are essential

Feedback between the school, tutor, and tuition provider ensures greater success. A focused approach and communication between the school and the tutor yields better results.  It is important to listen to feedback from tutors, learners, teachers, and parents. Stakeholders can take the time to review what’s working and what’s not and adjust.

Fleet’s Student and Tutor Education Programme (STEPS) is an open channel of communication for the school and tutors, providing reports on attendance, engagement, and progress as well as tuition sessions. Our monthly reports give a transparent view of the learners’ progress and educational journey.  This regular feedback ensures clients are informed and can make decisions about their learners.


Tutoring is effective when there is full support

In schools with stronger tutoring provisions, staff, pupils, and parents tended to view tutoring positively.  Leaders ensured tutoring was a positive addition to the school. Leaders were aware of the school’s strategy and were involved in managing the tutoring provision.


A focused approach ensures success

A focused approach to tutoring makes tuition programmes more likely to succeed.  At Fleet, we benchmark every pupil at the start of our tuition programmes to ensure that they make measurable progress.  Our tuition programmes undergo rigorous evaluation and continuous monitoring.   

In the DfE findings, the weakest approach in schools lacked baseline assessments and regular progress reports based on agreed outcomes.  At Fleet, progress is measured through our online learning platform and full reporting is available in real-time. 


Tutoring works best with qualified teachers

Inspectors saw a clear difference between sessions with qualified teachers and those with teaching assistants (TAs). Qualified teachers with a deep understanding of the subject curriculum were most effective in delivering tutoring. Qualified teachers use different pedagogical approaches meaning that sessions are more effective and match the needs of the pupil.

Tuition providers that use experienced tutors and qualified teachers with subject knowledge can better answer pupils’ questions. Those with secure subject knowledge can correct misconceptions and errors in real time.

At Fleet Education Services, we only recruit experienced tutors and educators with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) or a degree in the subject.  Our quality assurance (QA) ensures that Fleet Education Services only provides the best educators. This commitment to quality guarantees that schools receive the highest standard of tutoring.

Our tutors are familiar with exam boards and tailor the content of the tuition session to the pupils’ classwork.  Our educators can help close knowledge gaps, give revision support, and help with exam preparation.


In conclusion

The report found that when tutoring was successful, school leaders integrated the principles of effective tutoring into their provision. This included

  • limited group sizes
  • frequent sessions
  • consistent tutors
  • high-quality tutors

According to the EFF, frequent sessions, three times a week or so, lasting up to an hour over about 10 weeks show the greatest impact.

Tutoring cannot replace school learning. It serves as a resource for schools to support pupils. Tutors give personalised attention and tailored learning experiences, enabling pupils to address their unique learning needs and reinforce foundational knowledge. Through tutoring, pupils improve academically and emotionally. They build confidence, become more engaged, and have better attendance.

The views of leaders, tutors, and pupils have remained positive in the phase 2 findings. Most said that they enjoyed tutoring and found the support helpful.


About Fleet Education Services

Fleet Education Services is the UK’s largest specialist tuition provider. As a DfE-accredited NTP Tuition Partner, we tailor the solution to your school’s needs in limited groups or individual sessions. Why not arrange a call with us today?  We can run through our services and your funding streams, including examples of how the NTP subsidy can contribute to tuition costs.  We help over a third of local authorities and 700 schools.